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Three observations following Mikai Gbayor's verbal commitment to the Huskers

Three observations following Mikai Gbayor's verbal commitment to the Huskers

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Husker football coaches at the Rococo Theatre

Barrett Ruud (left) and Mike Dawson, Nebraska's two linebackers coaches, teamed up to recruit three-star New Jersey linebacker Mikai Gbayor.

Nebraska picked up a verbal commitment from three-star New Jersey linebacker Mikai Gbayor on Friday evening. Here are three observations following the pledge:

1. The Huskers continue to pursue second-level defenders and they have a bunch of versatile ones.

Gbayor is the latest in a line of rangy linebackers to pledge to Nebraska’s 2021 class. The question — which doesn’t need to have a clear answer just yet, of course — is who ends up playing inside and who might move outside. Some of that will depend on how NU’s 2021 efforts look through the end of the cycle.

Patrick Payton (Miami) is a clear outside guy at 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds. Gbayor could be either at 6-2 and 220. That’s about what Caleb Tannor played at in 2019, for example. Both Seth Malcom (6-3, 195) and Randolph Kpai (6-3, 190) have some length and range, too. Even Omaha Westside defensive back Koby Bretz (6-3, 190) could potentially end up a second-level defender instead of a secondary player. Skill set and development obviously will matter.

The Huskers have suffered some attrition at linebacker — Chris Paul Jr. (inside) and Will Scheitzer (outside), in addition to feeling good about Christian Burkhalter before he pledged to Oregon — but they’ve still built up a nice, versatile group for 2021.

2. Focus on the defense.

Nebraska might not be fully done adding offensive players to its 2021 class — it made the top seven for wide receiver Eric Mcalister (Azle, Texas) on Thursday and could potentially take another tight end or backfield player — but the prevailing sentiment is that most of the rest of the class will be about finding more defensive talent.

NU does not yet have a defensive lineman in its class and could certainly take multiple players. They’ve been recruiting Mandela Tobin (San Diego) and Ru’Quan Buckley (Grand Rapids, Michigan) for months and are involved with a big group of other prospects, too. They could still add more at the linebacker level and in the secondary, too.

One name to keep an eye on: defensive back John Howse IV (Brentwood, Tennessee), who visited Lincoln on his own recently and could be nearing a decision.

3. The super unofficial visit worked again.

As the NCAA’s dead period due to COVID-19 continues — it’s been in place since mid-March — players increasingly have had to make college choices without the ability to visit college campuses or interact in person with college coaching staffs.

That’s led some to travel to college towns and walk around campus on their own time, understanding that they can’t even go into football facilities, let alone meet with coaches. Of course, not every recruit and his or her family can afford to do that. The ones that can, though, have been able to at least see the campuses in person. They can talk with coaches on the phone, too, perhaps allowing for some creativity in the process.

Gbayor was able to get to Lincoln just before making his decision, which is more than some in the class have been able to say so far.

2021 Husker football recruits

Name Position Hometown (School) Stars
Koby Bretz DB Omaha (Westside) ***
Marques Buford DB Oakdale, Conn. (St. Thomas More) ***
James Carnie TE Norris ***
Gabe Ervin RB Buford, Ga. ***
Thomas Fidone TE Council Bluffs, Iowa (Lewis Central) ****
Mikai Gbayor LB Irvington, New Jersey ***
Kamonte Grimes WR Naples, Fa. (Palmetto Ridge) ***
Heinrich Haarberg QB Kearney (Catholic) ***
Shawn Hardy II WR Kingsland, Ga. (Camden County) ***
Henry Lutovsky OL Mt. Pleasant, Iowa ***
Randolph Kpai ILB Sioux Falls, S.D. (Washington) ****
Seth Malcom ILB Tabor, Iowa (Fremont-Mills) ***
Latrell Neville WR Missouri City, Texas (Hightower) ****
Patrick Payton OLB Miami, Fla. (Northwestern) ***
Teddy Prochazka OT Elkhorn (South) ****
A.J. Rollins TE Creighton Prep ***
Lardarius Webb Jr. CB Jackson, Miss. (Jackson Academy) ***
Malik Williams DB Buford, Ga. ***
Branson Yager OT Grantsville, Utah ***

Contact the writer at pgabriel@journalstar.com or 402-473-7439. On Twitter @HuskerExtraPG.

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